Should I bring my own hardware into work?
May 10, 2005 11:21 PM   Subscribe

As an intern in a software dev company whose desktop system is a 233MHz PII, I'm wondering if I should bring in my own PC to work on?

This isn't quite as cut and dried as that, of course. I've been promised an upgrade "soon" -- Most likely in 2 months when a contractor leaves, at which point I'll get his system.

Furthermore, the piece of junk that I would be replacing would be superceded by a flaky leftover PC that on occasion will not boot at all, and cannot run Windows due to repetitive BSODs (1-2/day). Runs Ubuntu like a champ, though.

I'm wondering if I run the risk of getting stuck with the POS I bring in, if I show initiative, or if this will be a win-win situation -- I get more productive until they give me real hardware, which happens reasonably speedily.

Also, what other things should I take into account, on the off chance this works?

I should mention, the company does not have a problem with user hardware. Many devs already use their own machines, but they also have good ones supplied by the company.
posted by ChrisR to Work & Money (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The first thing in reading this was to feel I should tell you to walk the other way unless you are getting equity.

Computers are so absurdly cheap that a company that cannot provide them is suspect.

I'd either bring my machine in or remote into my machine at home depending on the quality of the network. Your learning and doing good work is important to yourself.
posted by rudyfink at 11:32 PM on May 10, 2005

Wow. Any company that allows users to bring in their own machines is way out of my experience right there. It creates many more problems than it solves, much of the time. You wind up with a mess of non-compliant systems all supported by the users themselves. You're an intern, so I guess your time isn't that expensive, but paying full time software developers to do desk support is insane. But I guess some places are more strapped for IT help than others. Is it a teensy startup? That's the generous guess. As rudyfink suggests, "cocaine front" comes to mind as well.

I guess if this is the prevailing norm where you are, go for it. But consider carefully how much you will REALLY gain from those few extra MHz. Is it really worth the time and trouble? Or should you let your employer provide you with the tools to do your job? I think #2 is normal, so there's a reality check for you.
posted by scarabic at 11:34 PM on May 10, 2005

Buy a set of _long_ monitor, keyboard, and mouse cables. Keep the old machine from the company at your desk. Hide your machine from home somewhere else.

But seriously, a company should provide it's employees with the tools they need. A carpenter should have good tools, so should programmers. Learn what you can as an intern, and unless they step up and support you as an employee, run the other way and find a company that cares more for it's employees.
posted by tumble at 11:39 PM on May 10, 2005

If you are an intern trying to impress your management by faster and better work out put via your own machine, do it.

But I strongly caution you to do int quitely. There are licensing and security issues in COMPANY working environment.

I have done this myself. I was able to crank out work two or three times faster and easier with my own better computer at work. However I do not advertise that I have my own hardware at work nor trying to convice management that I need new computer because "look what I can do with my better one" (your computer will be upgraded soon or later... and your managment WILL look at your hardware as security and law suite issue.)

Do not plan to use your own computer as permanant fix. As I said before... BECAUSE you are an intern, your object should be showing off your WORK as best as YOU can. (they don't need to how you did it)

If you are a permanantly worker, do not bring in your own computer to work. It would only get you into trouble, if now with your management, with your HR or other legal departments. The COMPANY should be responsble for how the work output is coming out (slower or faster or better it is their responsibility)

In mean time, write an email or tell your boss (some what officially) that how better computer can improve company profit (try to be specific about it). (you may get some extra points) If you don't think the company will profit from the upgrade or it is minimal enhancement, then... well... just comment once or twice that you need better computer for better work flow.

If you decided that you must bring in your computer, you HAVE to get solid permission from managment before hand. Discuss software licensing etc... This will protect you from any problems later on. Chances are by the time you and your management figure out software and security issue... it will be more beneficial to upgrade your company computer.
posted by curiousleo at 11:48 PM on May 10, 2005

Dude, what kinda fly by night operation is that?

Get out while you can!
posted by stevejensen at 12:28 AM on May 11, 2005

Software licensing is the least of your worries in this situation. Chances are if you show up with some random piece of your own hardware (with flaky memory at that!) and attach it to the network, if your workplace has any sort of network administration whatsoever, someone will show up to kick your ass right back off the wire again.

Where I work, attaching your own hardware to the network is punishable with immediate termination. This kind of thing is all well and good if the "company" consists of fewer than ten people in total and it's still in a startup mode -- all about conserving that initial capital -- but if it's a large or mature organization of any kind at all you're going to seriously regret bringing your own hardware in.

Besides, it's a Windows environment, right? So how're you supposed to get this mystery hardware joined to the domain? You're not interning as an NT domain administrator, are you?
posted by majick at 12:42 AM on May 11, 2005

Be cautious of ever having work material and private material on the same computer, even though others are doing it. If you use your computer, you are in in practise giving carte blanch for the company network admin to read your email and whatever else is on it. If the company is sued, your computer will be among those pored over by hostile lawyers searching for any kind of dirt - work related or not.

If you're going to do this, format the drive first and give it a fresh install, so that you can treat it like a new, blank, workplace machine. Avoid treating it as your machine or use it for your own purposes, because if you're using it at work, for most intents and purposes it won't be treated as your machine if the fit hits the shan.

Perhaps you will be able to successfully argue your case if something you don't like happens, but chances are most of the damage will already have been done by then.

Basically, I don't really have much to contribute to your question, but I do suggest keeping taking a few basic steps to keep work and home seperate if you do go ahead and use your own machine.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:52 AM on May 11, 2005

And even more to the point, when the hammer comes down on attaching uncontrolled devices to the network, "but those guys got away with it" is going to be a pretty feeble defense, especially for someone as disposable as an intern.

In any case, best of luck. All signs point to this place being a very shady operation, but hopefully all will come out for the best!
posted by majick at 1:02 AM on May 11, 2005

Best answer: More considerations:

1) what if your equipment is damaged or stolen while on company property? Good luck getting their insurance to cover the loss if you brought that stuff in without supervisory knowledge and consent. If anything, the insurer will happily attempt to blame any related losses on the presence of your unauthorized equipment.

2) If a trojan or worm starts spreading through their network, guess where all the fingers are going to be pointed, fairly or not?

3) employee work product, including emails etc, is automatically considered company property. so once their property is stored on your property, they've got a vested interest in not letting you take your computer offsite until they've inspected it and wiped it clean. Definitely follow harlequin's advice if you're going to bring anything in.

4) But mainly, what everyone else said. A company that can't even provide adequate working tools is highly suspect. Even a low-budget operation can get a leased system on to your desk by the end of the week. Instead of asking whether to bring in personal hardware, you should be questioning whether this company is the best place to gain quality experience, contacts, and skills that you can't find in a classroom or book. There are plenty of other companies that will accept your free labor while delivering something of value in return. A productive internship requires a considerable investment of effort from both parties. The fact that they're not even bothering to provide adequate equipment to their staff, and have no problem wasting 2+ months of your time on some POS system, does not bode well. How likely is it that they'll make a serious investment in your training and mentorship?? Why waste your efforts, much less put your equipment at risk, on behalf of such a lame company?

5) Don't do anything without permission. You're an intern. What employees get away with is not relevant.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 2:03 AM on May 11, 2005

Don't bring in your own hardware. You're an intern, you're there to learn, and man, are you ever getting an object lesson already. Note all you can about this operation, how it is managed, how the network is administered, the morale of both the IT staff and the support staff.
posted by mischief at 3:29 AM on May 11, 2005

Response by poster: A few followups -- mostly about the nature of the company.

The company I'm working ($COMPANY) for used to be a small (5-10 person, all devel) startup in my home town. Due to the nature of their product, they were snatched up by a large multinational firm ($CORP) that sells products with which theirs was a good fit. $COMPANY remains the tight-knit, happy, platform-independent shop (the cheapie box I have is running Linux, as is my boss', and at least half of the devs, with the blessing of the local IT) whilst $CORP is Windows/Lotus Notes et al. We interface with them where needed (we have a VM server so that the Linux folks can have a Windows that they don't need to dual-boot into.) $COMPANY is not tight with hardware, but $CORP decides their finances. It's an acknowledged problem at our end, but we don't hold the purse strings any more.

Productivity-wise, I'm not without recourse at the moment. Again, at said boss' suggestion, I am running all of my really heavy apps -- IDE, browser, servers -- on a 4-proc build box and x-forwarding them all to my desktop. It's sluggish, but it's effective. So it's not a question of "can't do the work," but rather a question of "My god, I'm going insane waiting for menus to pop up sometimes."

Internship-wise, I'm hooked up with this company through school, and so far (7 days in) I've already learned a lot. I am already being given small, but meaningful tasks contributing directly to their ongoing project, so I both feel valued, and well-taught. They teach the way I like, which is "Throw 'em in and let 'em swim," which won't work for everyone, but I took this job because that's what they said they do, and the dev team (who were my sole interviewers on application) all seemd to love their jobs.
posted by ChrisR at 6:48 AM on May 11, 2005

I use my machine at work, and my employers' machines too. It works fine for us.

I'm not an intern, but i think it all boils down to how your employers relate to the idea of you using your machine -- if they say it's ok, then go ahead (but as others said be aware that your employers will/can have access to everyting on your machine.) DON'T do anything without discussing with your employer, then go with your instincts.
posted by anadem at 8:52 AM on May 11, 2005

Best answer: Regardless of whether or not it's a good idea (I say "isn't" for the reasons already brought up), and regardless of whether or not you get permission, don't bring hardware in without documenting it heavily unless you expect to leave it there when you leave. "I brought it in a couple months ago" won't impress the people that see you leaving with a computer on your last day, or worse, leaving with a computer if you are let go.
posted by mendel at 9:59 AM on May 11, 2005

I've been in this situation before--do whatever it takes to get the job done. Especially in a small company, nobody will fault you for breaking a few rules to get the job done quicker. (Beware of IT nazis though. Given the chance they'll cry foul about 'unauthorized network connections' or some BS. This is usually not a problem in small companies though.)
posted by nixerman at 12:22 PM on May 11, 2005

do whatever it takes to get the job done. Especially in a small company, nobody will fault you for breaking a few rules to get the job done quicker.

Well, there's the answer you were looking to hear, ChrisR. You're a cool, get-it-done, devil-may-care guy and the company you're interning for runs Linux of all things! You will definitely learn some important stuff, one way or the other.
posted by yerfatma at 1:33 PM on May 11, 2005

It's absolutely insane that they're providing you a PII 233 to do development work on, even if you are an intern developing with Linux. I intern'ed at more than a few companies, ranging in size from 4 guys in a spare bedroom to 100,000+ employees, and I've never dealt with anything like that.

A new Dell (P4 2.80 Ghz) is like 350 bucks, which I'm sure they could swing. I'd be kinda nervous that they're providing you with equipment that's 7 years old.
posted by SweetJesus at 1:52 PM on May 11, 2005

You know, there are some industries were bringing your own tools is standard. Autorepair comes to mind...

Anyway, considering the scale of your problem, why don't you talk to the bookkeeper and ask if you can have $50 reimbursed, and then go buy some cheap used PIII...
posted by Chuckles at 7:18 PM on May 11, 2005

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